The Marriage Bureau for Rich People
by Farahad Zama
Amy Einhorn Books (Putnam’s), 2009. 293 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #7 Fiction
The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is one I will be recommending to many, many library patrons as a pleasant, light-hearted read that will lift your spirits. It also gives you a taste of life in India.
Mr. Ali needs something to do after retirement. His wife tells him,
“After retiring, you’ve been like an unemployed barber who shaves his cat for want of anything better to do. Let’s hope that from today you will be a bit busier and I get some peace.”
Mr. Ali has decided to open a Marriage Bureau for Rich People. And in fact, he gets so much business he can’t handle it all himself. He deals with Muslims, Hindus, and Christians, and people of different castes. Sometimes parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles seek his services for their relatives, and sometimes the prospective matches come themselves. He learns much about human nature and has many insights on what leads to happiness.
Mrs. Ali finds her husband an assistant, Aruna, to help with the work load. Aruna has her own sad story, since her father’s recent illness strapped the family finances and destroyed her marriage prospects.
The book tells stories of some of the people they successfully match up, and some with whom they are not so lucky. Through it all, we hear about the Alis’ conflicts with their own son, who is involved in political protests, as well as Aruna’s difficulties. Fortunately, events take a happy turn.
This book introduces you to delightful people, tells interesting stories about them, and gives you a taste of India. Thinking about it still makes me smile. In some ways, this reminded me of The Number One Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith — the same pleasant tone, and the same basic idea: friendly main characters interacting with a wide variety of people, with insights on human nature given along the way. Both give a taste of the country where they are set, with The Marriage Bureau for Rich People in India, instead of Botswana.